Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Ahmedabad's 22% commuters "moved" from motorbikes to buses, saving 200,000 vehicle-km a day, claims World Bank

World Bank view of BRTS lane in Ahmedabad
By Our Representative
Taking an infrastructure-centric view of things, a new World Bank report has praised Ahmedabad for its “transformative initiatives” in managing issues of “motorization” and “urbanization” as a top priority. Saying that while most South Asian cities are “poorly planned and managed”, the report singles out Ahmedabad’s Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for having “emerged as an example” of how a planned commuting system can help “reduce emissions and improve air quality”, with a “positive impact on urban development.”
The report comes despite the existence of a well-documented study by Prof Darshini Mahadevia and Prof Rutul Joshi of the prestigious CEPT University, Ahmedabad, which said on the basis of a spot survey, only 0.4 per cent of the poor use BRTS, pointing out that even affluent people still prefer to use their private vehicles instead of BRTS buses. The study had revealed, just 13.7% of the BRTS users belonged to households with an income of up to Rs 5,000 while 62.2% users have monthly incomes of more than Rs10,000.
Refusing to into such “minor” details, the World Bank study, titled “Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia”, says, the name given to BRTS is “Janmarg” which means “the people’s way,” and is “a road-based public transport service, featuring a closed system with bus stations along road medians as well as revamped rights of way to include cycle tracks and pedestrian facilities.”
Pointing towards why it considers BRTS “a success” the report, contrary to the Mahadevia-Joshi survey, claims, “About 20–22 percent of commuters have moved from motorcycles to buses, saving almost 200,000 vehicle-kilometers per day. The Janmarg is expected to continue attracting passengers and is part of a larger regional plan for Ahmedabad with far wider coverage.” It is not known what the source of information is.
The World Bank claim continues, “The extensive network has benefited previously underserved groups. For example, there has been a rise in female travelers, and almost 40 per cent of commuters in the afternoon off-peak hours are women.”
Then, it adds, “Janmarg has also helped rejuvenate Ahmedabad, encouraging redevelopment of vacant, former mill lands and the building of new housing and shopping areas for the urban poor along its corridors.”
Coming to managing urbanization, the report praises the Gujarat government’s move to look into the problem of the current very low floor area ratio, which is a mere 1.0 at some places, choking the traffic in the Central Business District (CBD), impeding pedestrian movement.
The “ambitious local area plan” drafted by the Ahmedabad authorities, according to the report, “proposes to transform the CBD by leveraging its connectivity to a proposed metrorail system and its location along the waterfront.”
“It also proposes to triple the floor area ratio from 1.8 to 5.4, quadruple the population from 85,000 to 357,000, and double the street network coverage and green cover. The plan includes key elements such as adding new streets to improve connectivity and walkability, appropriating street-side setbacks and reducing building footprints, relaxing building envelope and height restrictions, incorporating design elements such as arcades, and transferring development rights up to the maximum building height”, the report states.
Making Ahmedabad as ideal, the report says, “Although South Asian cities generally may not be ready to adopt congestion pricing and tolling, implement parking controls, or levy taxes on luxury vehicles, they could start with basic traffic management initiatives, such as charging for on-street parking, and then move toward pay-to-use parking lots and garages.”

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